Immigration reform after the November election

By Reuben S. Seguritan

July 13, 2016

The November election may still be months away but already, several groups are laying the groundwork for a new comprehensive immigration reform bill. This came on the heels of the recent Supreme Court deadlocked decision on President Barack Obama’s immigration initiatives- the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and the Expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA+).

Immigration rights groups and advocates are already meeting up with lawmakers to discuss said reforms. Even Republican senators are seriously mulling over passing an even better immigration reform bill purportedly because of pressure from their Latino constituents. They are now bent on giving immigration reform another shot.

So while the Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, is singing his hardline stance of putting up a “wall” and deporting illegal foreign nationals, some of his party mates are singing a different tune and possibly drilling a hole in said “wall” and allowing for a more lenient approach to the issue of immigration as they are thinking of reviving the 2013 Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) bill.

It must be remembered that right after the 2012 elections, the Republicans and the Democrats came together to form what is now dubbed as the Gang of Eight, the bipartisan group composed of four Republicans (Sen. Jeff Flake, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. John McCain and Sen. Marco Rubio) and four Democrats (Sen. Michael Bennett, Sen. Richard Durbin, Sen. Bob Menendez and Sen. Chuck Schumer).

The group was responsible for crafting a comprehensive immigration bill, fully known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, that would have granted undocumented foreign nationals the chance to gain legal status and eventually citizenship while at the same time, securing the border.

The bill also aimed at making the immigration system more responsive to economic needs by reducing visa backlogs and providing for a fast track permanent residence for US graduates with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees.

Also in the bill were a more intensive use of the E-verify system by businesses to ensure that their workers have the legal right to work in the US, the creation of a W visa for low-skilled temporary workers, the replacement of the H2-A visa program for agricultural workers with a “blue card” for immigrants, and the placing of a higher cap for H-1B visas and imposing restrictions on companies that are found to be abusing the system. Provisions on the creation of a program to provide jobs to low-income and minimally-skilled American youth were also included.

The bill, however, did not make it in the House of Representatives. A number of provisions in the bill were objectionable to the Republicans. Concerns were expressed about the E-verify being vulnerable to hacks and database abuses and about the H-1B visa program being manipulated to reduce company costs by outsourcing cheaper foreign labor, resulting in more and more Americans having to train foreign nationals who will eventually take their jobs away from them.

Now, some members of the Gang of Eight want to do it again. “I’m going to take the Gang of Eight bill out, dust it off and ask anybody and everybody who wants to work with me to make it better to do so,” said Sen. Graham. Sen Jeff Flake also shares his enthusiasm. “We’ll do another autopsy after the next election and we’ll determine what we’ve got to do,” he said. He was referring to an in-depth review of the 2013 bill and see what went wrong.